Crispy Gamer

Jones and Narcisse Test Drive ModNation Racers; Get Figurines

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Evan and I got the chance to stop by United Front Games here in Vancouver a couple weeks back to get some hands-on time with the upcoming ModNation Racers.

What is ModNation Racers?

The gist: It's Mario Kart crossed with LittleBigPlanet.

You build your character from scratch (he/she/it literally begins as a blank slate). You tinker with your car. And, most impressively, you can build your own tracks. Then you race.

The nice Canadians at UFG walked us through a few demos, then turned us loose on the game. I built a strange kind of devil-pig thing who wears his underpants on the outside of his pants and a gas mask on his face. (Because, as I explained to Narcisse, his face is so hideous that it has been known to kill babies.) Narcisse built a cool super hero dude. Naturally.

Unlike the obtuse make-your-own tools in LittleBigPlanet, ModNation's tools are intuitive and kind of fun to use. A button press here, an analog stick twist there, boom, you've got a Mordor-like tower at the center of your race track. Throw in some sheep, a random cruise ship, an overpass or two, weapons and power-ups, a few boost pads, etc. and you're cooking with gas. It's pretty amazing.

So far Sony (it's a PS3 exclusive) and UFG are mum regarding the game's single-player campaign. (Though they've assured me it's quite robust.)

Off the record, the racing felt a little dodgy to me. Drifting, which is essential for generating the almighty boost, felt a little too difficult to pull off. And without that aforementioned single-player campaign, the world of ModNation has no gravitas. It's bright and colorful, but without any narrative background, it's not a game; it's a tech demo. (Albeit a very impressive tech demo.) And the game, in its current form, is a bit too challenging for casual gamers. The game's A.I. left me in the dust 90-percent of the time. (And I wasn't the only one left in the dust; other writers from other esteemed nerd outlets were also finishing in 6th, 7th, and 8th place on a regular basis.)

Still. What potential.

Best of all, the next morning, as everyone was checking out of the hotel, we discovered that the UFG elves had been busy overnight. At the front desk we found fully realized figurines of the characters we'd created. Even my figurine-hating self was thoroughly impressed by this bit of alchemy.